Interesting Rarely Known Sports Facts/Tidbits Thread

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
One of the oddities of pre-1950 baseball is that a player could have a real career in the minor leagues. By Speece pitched an inning in the 1924 World Series and only pitched 167 major league innings, mostly as a mop-up reliever. Open up his minor league record though and you see he won 229 career games. He's winning 20 games a season in a league where 60-75% of the players once reached the majors (or would in the future). The guy obviously had talent.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
I'm going to preface this one right off the bat. It's all bullshit.

I saw a blogpost headline that referred to Whitey Ford as "the Greatest Living Yankee." We know intrinsically that Ford doesn't earn that distinction simply by being the best player. He's also one of the last living legends from that generation. I figured I would run an equation to multiply a player's WAR by 1.XX, XX being whatever their age is. For the Yankees...

1. Whitey Ford 108.11
2. Derek Jeter 104.26
3. Willie Randolph 88.56
4. Mariano Rivera 83.89
5. Roy White 81.9

Like I said, bullshit. But it gets you statistically where you want to be in the conversation.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Sweetwater Clifton was a basketball legend, one of the players who integrated the NBA. Turns out, he played minor league baseball in my home city of Wilkes-Barre!

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=clifto001nat
 

SFH

Integral Poster
How much of that was gained from WCW appearances? I know the appearance fee was pretty up there.
 

BruiserBrody

Integral Poster
Be gentle with me if this one is known:

I'm reading a book on Bart Starr's failed run as Packers coach. In 1977, Lynn Dickey suffered a broken leg. NFL rules at the time did not allow the Packers to sign either if the two QBs they had released during the pre-season because you could not sign someone you had earlier cut unless they were signed elsewhere first.

What in the name of what was this rule for?!!?!
--

It was also illegal at the time for teams to ask players from different colleges to meet at one spot to do a pre-draft tryout. The Saints and Packers violated this rule in back to back years. The Saints were penalized $5,000, while the Packers were stripped of a 4th round pick.
 

HarleyQuinn

Laugh This Off... Puddin'!
Staff member
Brodypedia said:
Be gentle with me if this one is known:

I'm reading a book on Bart Starr's failed run as Packers coach. In 1977, Lynn Dickey suffered a broken leg. NFL rules at the time did not allow the Packers to sign either if the two QBs they had released during the pre-season because you could not sign someone you had earlier cut unless they were signed elsewhere first.

What in the name of what was this rule for?!!?!
--

It was also illegal at the time for teams to ask players from different colleges to meet at one spot to do a pre-draft tryout. The Saints and Packers violated this rule in back to back years. The Saints were penalized $5,000, while the Packers were stripped of a 4th round pick.

Interesting stuff. The latter I think was a rule partly in place to let teams only work players out at their local college campuses.
 

BruiserBrody

Integral Poster
Just finished a book covering the Packers under Dan Devine, the only non Lombardi disciple to coach for GB until 1987.

- Devine's 1972 Packers made the Playoffs behind a young bull at fullback named John Brockington. QB was largely a mess, with 2nd year 6th round pick Scott Hunter manning the spot most of the year. Despite having still been an active player the year before, Bart Starr was named OC. The media loved him, and gave him praise and attention instead of Devine for the success.
When the playoffs came, Devine took away Starr's playcalling, and spent the whole game running into a 5 man front, instead of allowing Hunter to audible and throw. The Pack lost a boring 13-3 game to Washington. Starr could be seen standing alone, far from the action in the middle of the game. Devine and Starr agreed to part at this point. Devine was so livid over not getting the glory, he actually resigned and had to be talked back. Starr went on to turn down other coaching offers, with his eyes on the Packers prize.
Devine had two more poor season's, culminating in Oct. of 1974 when Time magazine did a feature on Devine, where he revealed the locals accused his wife of being an alcoholic (she had MS), the kids called his daughters whores, and he implied that irate fans shot the family dogs. (He admitted 30 years later that it was an accident).
So with the head coach burying the team, the official Packer PR man Chuck Lane was given room to respond, he said "The Players hate Devine and want him gone." Turns out Lane was a double agent for Starr and was actively trying to get Devine to be fired/quit so Bart could take over.
Devine would go on to trade a 1st, 2nd in 75 and a 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 76 for 34 year-old John Hadl. Hadl had just been benched after playing poorly against...the Packers. The kicker ended up being that Hadl saw all those picks and refused to report without a big raise, so the Rams and Packers agreed to give him 200 grand each to get the matter passed.
The team was so fed up that they mutinied the last week of the year and almost decided to forfeit the game. Lombardi coach Dave Hanner was still coaching defense for Devine and lead the charge against him.
 

BruiserBrody

Integral Poster
Between 1955 and 1957 the Steelers drafted Johnny Unitas and Len Dawson, as well as picked up Jack Kemp on waivers from the Lions. All went on to big time careers elsewhere while the Steelers sunk into mediocrity.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Decided to rewatch some classic baseball innings. Not as time consuming as games, but more in depth and context than a simple baseball highlight. I think it will make sense when I dig in.

1986 World Series Game 6: Bottom of 10th Inning

Most of us know the basics here. Red Sox haven't won a Series in 58 years but they lead 5-3 in the bottom of the tenth and they hold a 3-2 series lead. It's in Shea. Vin Scully is on the mike, Joe Garagiola is doing color. Dave Henderson hit the go ahead home run and they tacked on another run. Roger Clemens went seven innings. Calvin Schiraldi is on the mound for the Sox.

Scully never puts this one in the bag for the Sox. Nor does he ever mention their long championship drought. He is very good at keeping the game in the moment and not trying to overdramatize it. We get our share of camera shots of players in the dugout but not close-ups of fans.

Two quick outs. Backman and Hernandez both fly out to center and right, respectively.

Gary Carter gets a line drive single to left. Kevin Mitchell follows with a liner to center, kind of a jam shot. Schiraldi gets two strikes on Ray Knight but Knight lines another to center, scoring one. 5-4 Red Sox, Mitchell at third and Knight at first.

At this point, McNamara gets Stanley from the bullpen. Stanley battles Mookie Wilson, working him to a 2-2 count. Stanley throws one inside, catcher Rich Gedman fails to grab it and Mitchell scores from third. Tie game, full count. Mookie pops it foul. Mookie barely gets ahold of the next pitch to line it foul. On a replay, Joe Garagiola notes Gedman was out of position trying to catch the wild pitch. Mookie either gets a new bat or adds some substance. Next pitch, grounder, Buckner whiffs and we get the famous call.

Vin Scully holds the silence for a full 1:45 as the broadcast gives us the crowd noise and visuals and replays. Buckner is never mentioned by name but we see him clearly hobbling off the field. Of course it's delirium in Shea, an all time great Mets franchise moment.

A couple takeaways:

-Of course Buckner has always carried the blame, but the score was tied when he made the error. It was still a costly play, the second most important of the game according to Win Probability Added.

-That said, Buckner clearly should not have been out there. He had just batted, he would have been due up eighth if the game continued. Clear, clear spot for a defensive replacement.

-Smart fans look at the summary and say of course the wild pitch was the clear miscue. But Stanley didn't even bounce the pitch. Gedman deserves just as much blame, IMO.

-Bob Stanley overpowered Mookie Wilson. He nearly struck out Wilson and induced a weak grounder, actually the weakest ball the Mets hit in the inning.

-The lions' share of the credit really should go to the Mets' bats. The Red Sox made two crucial mistakes during the Wilson at bat, but the Mets got three key hits to get to that point.

-Vin Scully is the man. Credit to the broadcast team though for doing a great job around him.
 

strummer

Integral Poster
Great write up Al

Can't believe how many people still believe the Red Sox were still winning the game when Buckner's error occurred. It was tied damnit!! In fact within the last year a caller to the Michael Kay show made the same mistake before being corrected.

Also I've seen a bunch of people incorrectly believe this was a series clinching win for the Mets
 

HarleyQuinn

Laugh This Off... Puddin'!
Staff member
Really great video of Dante Hall discussing his Human Joystick return era

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTfHkGxUMcA
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
1985 World Series Game 6: Bottom of the 9th inning

The St. Louis Cardinals are in Kansas City, playing the Royals. The Cards are up three games to two and hold a 1-0 lead in game six. The Cards had won a World Series in 1982, the Royals had never won a World Series.

Ken Dayley, a lefty, is the pitcher of record for the Cardinals. Whitey Herzog waits for the Royals to use Darryl Motley as a pinch hitter before bringing in righty Todd Worrell. Dick Howser counters with another pinch hitter, lefty Jorge Orta.

Orta watches one and fouls two. 0-2 count. Orta hits a weak chop, Clark fields it, throws to Worrell, safe. One of the most famous blown calls in World Series history. Three quick replays confirm Orta was out. The Cardinals argue and Whitey Herzog comes out. The biggest surprise in all this is that it took 1:10 from Orta hitting the bag to Steve Balboni stepping up to the plate. The call barely interrupted the flow of the game.

Now we've got Balboni, the power bat of the Royals. Announcers Al Michaels and Tony Kubek speculate on a bunt, but Balboni could win this game on one swing. First pitch is a pop up. Darrell Porter and Jack Clark converge near the 1B dugout and Clark whiffs on the pop up. It's precariously close to the dugout, there's no fence or barrier to keep players from falling in. Michaels notes that Clark was a career right fielder. "He came off the base and I'm not saying he made a mistake with the Motley ball..."

Todd Worrell is just throwing fastballs and trying to blow it past batters. The Royals are barely fouling these off. Balboni fouls the second pitch as Michaels notes Balboni is aiming for the freeway. But on the third pitch Balboni reaches and hits a hard grounder to LF. Orta to 2nd.

The most obvious move in the world. Onix Concepcion pinch runs for Balboni at first as the potential winning run. Herzog comes out for a mound conference. Worrell has thrown seven pitches, seven strikes.

Jim Sundberg is up to bunt. Two balls. Mound conference. One bunt foul lands in the seats. Second rolls foul on the first base line. Fifth pitch sees Sundberg lay down a two strike bunt. It bounces to the third base side of Worrell where he picks it and throws it to third. Orta is out at third, one out. Concepcion to second, Sundberg on at first base.

Hal McRae pinch hits for Buddy Biancalana. (The DH rule was not used in this World Series.) Ball one, low and outside. Second pitch is a rare slider. Porter clanks it, runners move up to second and third. Passed ball. The decision to go ahead and walk McRae is obvious.

That brings up Dan Quisenberry's spot, and Dane Iorg pinch hits. John Wathan pinch runs for McRae. (Wathan as a catcher once stole 36 bases in a season. His son Dusty stole 24 in his minor league career and I'm surprised he had that many.) The Cards are still up one, a double play wins the World Series. Taking stock of Worrell, he has thrown 16 pitches, 10 strikes.

First pitch to Iorg is low. Second pitch is lined to right, Andy Van Slyke is playing way too deep. Concepcion scores. Sundberg scores as the throw comes in but Porter can turn and make a tag fast enough. "He scores, we go to a seventh!" as Kansas City sets off the loudest celebration in their team's history.

My takeaways:

-The missed Orta call hurt, sure. By Win Probability Added it wasn't one of the five most important plays of the game.

-The Cardinals made two, maybe three key mistakes in that inning. The missed pop fly, the passed ball, and perhaps the Orta hit. It was like the Armando Galarraga play where the umpire's mistake compounded the original mistake that the first baseman fielded a ball the second baseman could've, and thrown to a pitcher running to the bag.

-The Royals had five offensive substitutions in that inning. Imagine that in today's game.

-There was absolutely no baserunning game at work here, beyond pinch runners. No runner stole or bluffed a steal, Worrell never threw over.

-Finally, this game was absolutely winnable for the Cardinals. They blew the World Series because they scored one run in their last 26 innings of baseball.

Postscript: The Cardinals shit the bed in game seven. John Tudor didn't make it out of the third inning. A sixth run fifth chased both Joaquin Andujar and Whitey Herzog. Bret Saberhagen pitched a complete game shutout as the Royals won their first World Series.
 

HarleyQuinn

Laugh This Off... Puddin'!
Staff member
Great stuff, Al. I always love looking back at games in hindsight and wondering the 'little' moments that changed a game from win to loss. Out of curiosity, what were the win expectancy for the situations you mentioned?
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Some of these are off 1% because of rounding

Start of Inning: Royals have 20% chance of winning

Orta 1B (Blown Call): 34% (+13%)
Balboni 1B: 52% (+18%)
Sundberg FC: 34% (-18%)
Passed Ball: 54% (+21%)
McRae IBB: 54% (-1%)
Iorg 1B: 100% (+46%)

That's what actually happened. I'm going to take a look at a win expectancy chart for some what if's.

If Orta's 1B becomes an out:
BEFORE: 20%
AFTER: 34%
IF OUT: 11%

If you look at win expectancy that way, you can argue it was a way more important play. Not as big as the final single, but big.

If Jack Clark catches Balboni's popup:
BEFORE: 34%
AFTER: 34% (It was a non-event)
IF OUT: 21%

Not catching that pop up and allowing Balboni to follow up with a single was a 30% swing.

If you include the what ifs, here's about where the most important plays rank:
1. Iorg's single. Can't be emphasized enough. If he rolls over on that ball and hits it to short the Cardinals are World Champions.
2. Jack Clark misses the pop-up. Because Balboni singled.
3. Brian Harper's go ahead single in the top of the 8th. Two outs, that was clutch.
4. Orta reaches on Denkinger's missed call.
5. The passed ball during McRae's at bat.

One last addition. I find it a little amusing that knowing a double play could end the game, the Royals still decided against having Hal McRae in there to take out the second baseman.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Maybe not rarely known, but how good was Ernie Banks in his prime?

https://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/shareit/U5Xcs

Shortstops in baseball in 1958-59. Banks had a 255 point lead in OPS over the next best hitter at the position. Banks slugged .600+, no one else even topped .400!
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Walter Johnson is known as perhaps baseball's greatest pitcher, winning 416 games in his career. He also hit 24 home runs in his career, notable since he played about 2/3rds of his career in the dead ball era in an impossible park for right handed hitters. Through 1920, Johnson was the Senators' franchise leader in home runs. It took until 1931 for a right handed batter to pass him.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Piling on, the franchise leaders in Home Runs up to 1920 are fairly interesting.

St. Louis Browns: George Sisler
Boston Red Sox: Babe Ruth
Chicago White Sox: Happy Felsch
Cleveland Indians: Nap Lajoie
Detroit Tigers: Sam Crawford
Washington Senators: Walter Johnson
New York Yankees: Babe Ruth
Philadelphia A's: Harry Davis


Boston Braves: Herman Long
Chicago Cubs: Jimmy Ryan
Cincinnati Reds: John Reilly
Brooklyn Dodgers: Zack Wheat
Philadelphia Phillies: Gavvy Cravath
Pittsburgh Pirates: Honus Wagner
New York Giants: Mike Tiernan
St. Louis Cardinals: Tip O'Neill

No Home Run Baker, Roger Connor, Shoeless Joe Jackson. Ty Cobb trailed Sam Crawford by a single HR. Babe Ruth had just finished his first season with the Yankees and blew past Wally Pipp's previous record of 34 home runs. Pipp hit 11 himself in 1920 and remained second place in club history. Pipp is a historical footnote but he really was a fine player. He twice led the American League in home runs. After he lost his job to Lou Gehrig Pipp was sold to the Cincinnati Reds where he played well enough to get MVP votes.
 

Alfdogg

Alfdogg
The Minnesota Timberwolves' win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday ended a streak of 20 consecutive games in which the two teams alternated wins and losses. I had read before the game that this was the longest such streak out of the 4 major sports, but now I am only seeing it stated that it is just NBA history. Maybe someone else can shed some light?
 

HarleyQuinn

Laugh This Off... Puddin'!
Staff member
Man those early 90s Bengals...

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/nfl/bengals/2017/07/14/cincinnati-bengals-50-david-klingler-and-akili-smith/366545001/

"Klingler was the first choice – though not an obvious one in the spring of 1992. He had a record-setting career at the University of Houston but the Bengals had a 31-year-old Boomer Esiason under contract and seemed intent on taking Wisconsin corner Troy Vincent at No. 6 overall.

That is until the direction changed.

'Dave (Shula) was the one that wanted Klingler,' Brown said. 'We weren’t going to draft Klingler. We had no plans to draft Klingler until literally the day before the draft or the day of the draft even, I’ve forgotten which. Dave was very excited. He had gone to work him out. Oh, he’s not Marino but he’s the very next level. He’s really good.”
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Looking at the 1970 Phillies (50 years ago) and noticed the team used 249 pinch hitters. That seemed like a lot, so I dug into some stats.


-Accidently looked up individuals before teams. Ichiro Suzuki set the record for pinch hitting appearances in a season with 109 in 2017. He smashed that record, it was previously 94 by Rusty Staub in 1983. Did that get noticed at all?

-It turns out the Phillies were about middle of the pack. The Montreal Expos used 329 pinch hitters. The Phils were 10th.

-The record for pinch hitters in a season, 359 by the 1965 Mets. The Mets were last in hitting, last in pitching and little surprise that you would want to replace as many players as possible. Danny Napoleon led the team with 50 pinch hitting appearances. His .205 average in those appearances actually looks good when you compare it to his .144 season average.

-Second place on the team list, the 2019 Giants. That surprised me a bit, teams in the '60s and '70s pinch hit for their middle infielders and platooned a ton compared to modern teams. But since teams essentially pinch hit for their pitchers every at bat after the starter leaves (which comes earlier and earlier), that adds up.

-Most pinch hits by a team, 81 by four different clubs.

-Most pinch hit home runs, 17 by the 2016 Cardinals. That club was one of the four with 81 pinch hits, batting .333 off the bench as a whole.

-2016 Cardinals pinch hitting: https://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/split_stats_team.cgi?full=1&params=defp%7Cas%20PH%7CSTL%7C2016%7Cbat%7CAB%7C

-The 1958 Cubs grounded into 16 double plays off the bench. Ouch.
 

King Kamala

Integral Poster
Today's the 50th Anniversary of Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. I never knew that Willis Reed only scored 4 points (and only played in the first half) in "The Willis Reed game". I assumed he had a huge game (and came back dramatically towards the end of the game) after coming back but I guess it was much more of a moral boost than a statistical one.
 

OG

Integral Poster
King Mutumbo Classic said:
Today's the 50th Anniversary of Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. I never knew that Willis Reed only scored 4 points (and only played in the first half) in "The Willis Reed game". I assumed he had a huge game (and came back dramatically towards the end of the game) after coming back but I guess it was much more of a moral boost than a statistical one.
That'd be a fun thread. Which famous game by a player was actually the worst statistically?
 

King Kamala

Integral Poster
Yeah he did score the four points he scored were the first four points scored in the game so I guess I can definitely see how he was moral support. He got MSG fired up right away and rattled Lakers/

And Game 7 of the '70 Finals was a blowout. I always assumed it was a close dramatic game but it was 113-99 and not nearly as close as that score would indicate. Knicks were up by 27 at halftime.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Listening to Rod Carew on a podcast. He received his heart transplant when NFL player Konrad Reuland passed away prematurely.
 

HarleyQuinn

Laugh This Off... Puddin'!
Staff member
Going through the Celtics and it's interesting following their NBA Drafts (the Len Bias pick is pretty well known) in relation to their downfall post-Bird and re-birth under Pierce.

Brian Shaw gets taken 24th in 1988. Plays just 2 seasons (including a year off in Italy in between) before getting dealt to Miami in 1991.
Dee Brown goes 19th in 1990. Decent although he's more of a scorer than a pass first PG. Sticks with the Celtics through the 1996 NBA Season.
Rick Fox is 24th in 1991. Takes a while to develop but finally starts to around 1995-1996.
Jon Barry is the 21st Pick in 1992 and gets dealt to Milwaukee literally 5 Months later without playing a game for Boston.
Acie Earl is the 19th Pick in 1993 as Boston tries to find a replacement Center. Is a backup for 2 years then in Toronto by the 1995-1996 Season.
Eric Montross memorably is the 9th Pick in 1994. Also last 2 seasons then gets traded to Dallas.
Eric Williams is taken 14th in 1995 and actually averages 15 PPG in the 1996-1997 Season, lands in Denver for 2 years, then returned to Boston from 1999-2002 (in a deal that sent Ron Mercer to Denver).
Antoine Walker goes 6th Overall in 1996. Great Pick.
Chauncey Billups goes 3rd lasting just 51 games before being dealt to Toronto and Ron Mercer goes 6th in 1997. A solid scorer who, shock to nobody, lasts just 2 seasons. Boston easily could've built a team around a Billups/Mercer backcourt with Walker at PF.
Finally the Celtics take Paul Pierce 10th overall in 1997.

Larry Bird retires after the 1991-1992 Season. Kevin McHale retires after the 1992-1993 Season. Robert Parish is gone from the Celtics after the 1993-1994 Season.

Even as an 11 & 12 year old, it still fucking boggles my mind why they traded Chauncey Billups (they got Kenny Anderson & Popeye Jones back from Toronto... not even a Draft Pick) and let Ron Mercer be dealt after just 2 Seasons for a guy they had previously drafted!

Anderson at least stuck with Boston through 2001, Popeye played 18 games then got traded. Mercer got dealt alongside Popeye Jones for Eric Williams, Danny Fortson (just 55 games), and a 2001 1st round pick.
 

Baby Shoes

Baby Shoes
Great list, @HarleyQuinn. One major omission on your list is Reggie Lewis, drafted 22nd overall between Bias and Shaw. Reggie was looking like the bridge for the Celtics and had that 1992 All-Star appearance before his scary incident the next season and untimely passing in the Summer of 1993.

Barry refused to sign with the Celtics, for reasons I‘m still unclear about and who is really going to write about Jon Barry’s playing days to find out. I feel the forced trade to Milwaukee was him assuming he’d get a better role but he really achieved nothing there before floating around the league and being the third best pro in his family.
 

BruiserBrody

Integral Poster
I am reading another Packer book. This one is celebrating being competent again after 25 years.... It was released a season before Super Bowl 31.

Anyway a few interesting factoids:

HC Lindy Infante wanted to draft Barry Sanders, and GM Tom Braatz talked him down on draft day. They knew Mandarich was a run blocking specialist and relied on brute power. Infante ran a 3 WR, one RB style offense which favored passing. It was going to be a disaster and they sort of knew it.
OT Ken Ruettgers had been drafted in the 1st round in 85 and the Packers were sort of desperate to move him to a new team as he had a tendency to hold out in training camp since he did not like to play in preseason. I believe the book states he held out 5 out of 8 years he had been a Packer by 1994.
In 1992 (93?)The Mandarich mess and Ruettgers head aches lead to Ron Wolf offering the Vikings 2 1st Round picks for Gary Zimmerman. The deal was done, but then the Viks backed out. Zimmerman went to the Broncos for a 1`and 2 instead.
OLB Tim Harris had a great year in '89 (19 sacks) and held out the following year. The Packers could not get a deal done and they wound up shipping him to the Niners for a pair of 2nd round picks. The fans were livid as the Packers had little for star power as it was and here the organization was sending talent away again. GM Braatz told the fans at a luncheon that Harris had drug issues, so he needed to go. The Niners got wind of this and cried foul, demanding reparations. Paul Tagliabue would not rule on the situation. FFWD a year later and the Packers, with new GM Ron Wolf were trying to sign Niners OC Holmgren. Holmgren had a lucrative contract and was penciled in to be the Niners HC if Seifert chose to leave. . Instead of letting the Packers sign Holmgren clean, they indicated they would try and legally block the move. Holmgren had offers from the Steelers and other teams, and the Niners said they would not block any of those moves. Ron Wolf sent the Niners back a 2nd Round pick as a make good for Harris (who was a Niner for several years anyway) and they let Holmgren go to the Pack as part of the deal.
 
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